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Cultivating Cannabis, Legally

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This fall, Illinois will start accepting applications for people who want to grow medical marijuana. Some companies are already looking for land and local agencies are figuring how to zone "pot farms".

When you think about crops being planted, you might imagine a field where farmers can grow it. But with medical marijuana cultivation on it's way to Illinois, Cannabis plants will most likely be grown inside buildings with controlled environments.

The Department of Agriculture will be in charge of registering and regulating 22 cannabis cultivation centers in Illinois, one for each Illinois State Police district. Rock Island County Zoning and Building Safety director Greg Thorpe said they haven't made any local rules yet for growing medical marijuana, but they're exploring the idea of it.

"From what I've seen these are not your normal, agricultural activities," said Thorpe. "These are more cultivation centers, the stuff you see in movies, the stuff you see on TV shows where they have big warehouses with plants growing inside."

Thorpe said there are strict rules being put in place by the state, which are still being worked on. Some include inspecting facilities at least once a week. The cultivation centers will also require live security camera feeds to the IL-DOA and ISP.

"It's not the same thing as growing corn or soybeans around here," said Thorpe. "It's completely different kind of market."

But Thorpe said if someone approached him wanting to zone an area to cultivate medical marijuana, it would be fairly easy to do.

"Really we would just approve the special-use permit and then it would be allowed," said Thorpe. "Really, I just regulate how they use the piece of land. So, I say yes now this can go on there, whether it fits in a district or special use permit."

And that permit costs roughly $400.

To apply with the state, it will be a $25,000 non-refundable fee and proof you have $500,000 in liquid assets.

Thorpe said prospective growers would fit best in a business or industrial district, as a opposed to an agricultural area.

It's not currently legal to grow medical marijuana in Illinois. Once state rules are finalized and adopted, more information will be available to apply for a cultivation center license.

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